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Steve C.

Effective English Tutor Specializing in Reading and Test Prep Skills

Colorado Springs, CO (80917)

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30 miles
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Steve's Tutoring Subjects

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Corporate Training:
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All of Steve’s current tutoring subjects are listed at the left. You can read more about Steve’s qualifications in specific subjects below.

ACT English

Quite simply, I have tutored many students for this test and have a very high acumen in all aspects of language arts, including vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing, analogies, comparisons, sentence completion, and contextual inference. In fact, the first person I tutored some years ago was my youngest son. He scored 34 on the verbal ACT and the three portions of the SAT approached 1800.

Although, I am qualified to teach more than twenty subjects including my own majors of art and history, I am most comfortable with English. Even as a boy, I was the odd ball who loved sentence diagramming, or taking apart a sentence piece by piece and assigning it a nomenclature that structurally related all aspects of the sentence to one another. At home, I began reading Camus and Poe at fifteen and have never really stopped.

Reading comprehension, and the ability to generalize, in fact, is the key to many, many professions and levels of upper management success, beyond it’s inherent stimulation. It’s not just a way to get into college.

The fact that beauty is beauty and profundity is profundity is more than a set of words. A simple sentence such as “For a moment she stared at the darkness as though it were the surface of a pond into which someone she loved had disappeared, head to heels,” elicits grace, deftness, and simmering beauty without slightest apparent effort. Reading is the handmaiden to learning.

In short, I love this subject!

American History

American history is a long and complex story, the outline of which most literate people are familiar with. I feel to abbreviate it would trivialize it. Instead, I will concentrate on what arguably is the most single important series of related events in American history, the Civil War.

Slavery, which was originally introduced into Jamestown in 1620, was abolished in all the Northern states by the turn of the nineteenth century, but it continued to flourish in the Southern and border states. A heavy European demand for cotton, and the general lack of consensus on the legality of slavery's abolition, combined with the fact that it was the sole means of Southern economic output, created implacable resistance in the South to its elimination.

In the late 1850s, a completely new political party arose, the Republicans, who effectively gained control of congress through a politically astute combining of former rivals. This coalition in turn created unpreventable legislation to halt the Southern expansion of slavery into the new Western territories.

These provisions created an economically and politically isolated South. Punitive congressional legislation like maritime tariffs, designed to fund Western expansion, fell directly and deliberately on the Southern plantation system. It is seldom noted that this was done more for political advantage, than moral outrage at the idea of slavery.

Lincoln’s election in 1860 triggered a crisis as eleven slave states, fearing the worst, seceded to found the Confederacy in 1861. Ironically, Lincoln himself had no intention of ending slavery in the South, as he believed with nearly everyone else, except for a minority of abolitionist, (some of whom were in his cabinet), that slaves were private property and their coerced freedom would have been unconstitutional.

There are many myths about Lincoln. More interesting than most is that fact that he was a highly successful man by the time he became President, not a rag muffin country lawyer, although he was born in a log cabin!

Furthermore, he lost virtually all his political races prior to his Presidency. Nor did he believe in the equality of the races, until several years before his death. He was, however, steadfast and unusually ethical for someone involved in politics.

The bloody American Civil War of 1861-1865 created more causalities than any other war America has ever been involved in; some 750,000 dead, nearly twice as many as in the entire Second World War.

In 1861, the first land battle of the Civil War lasted perhaps 30 minutes. Both sides inflated the number of enemy troops and casualties, but fewer than a dozen men were wounded, and there were no fatalities.

But two years later, 87,000 Union troops engaged 72,000 Confederate troops where each lost approximately one-third of their men in combat. Gettysburg became the turning point in the war with this costly Union victory.

It was in commemoration of this day that Lincoln wrote his famous address that began “ Four score and seven years ago our nation was conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

It is little known that he wrote this masterpiece of eloquence just hours before his address, alone in a hotel room.

Art Theory

With degrees in art and history in undergraduate and graduate school, I have asked, been asked, and have heard others ask… What is art?

Are there standards that must apply to every work of art? How do images communicate differently from words or do they? What is artistic genius or is there such a thing? How does art change with time and place? How does art reflect society and construct its identity and values? Should art depict anything at all, or is it a world unto itself.

Since ancient Greece, Italy has dominated art theory and art itself but its control in Europe began to erode in the mid-seventeenth century; and by the eighteenth century, it was on its way to becoming culturally ignored, renowned more for its past than its modern production.

Today art theory gravitates toward two complex issues, objective and non-objective work. The first believes that art should correspond somewhat or literally to nature. It should create a narrative or story and obey the principals of art, which can be taught and learned.

The second approach to art asks whether it can be taught at all or is completely unaffected by reason and rules? This non-objective art surprisingly dates as far back as 1887, and runs throughout this and the twentieth century.

There are many nuances in between. The Impressionists insisted life was transitory and attempted to create a sense of fleeting change through the use of light and undefined edges using spots of color. Coloring itself was often devalued as decorative but elevated in early twentieth century Fauvism as an end itself. Photo-realism gridded photographs to create huge, startling images of utter photographic clarity.

For most of this century and last, however, narrative or traditional art has been degraded as too common, too literal, or perhaps even too accessible, unless it had some edge or implausible subject matter as in surrealism. To my knowledge no one has as yet answered the question “what is art” unless we want to believe what some say… that art is what an artist creates. But this begs the question, who is an artist.

ASVAB

I specialize in entrance examinations, especially, the ASVAB.

The test itself is a medley of subjects and questions covering general science, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics knowledge, electronics information, auto and shop, and mechanical comprehension.

None of these areas can be taken for granted, except for those where your greatest strengths lie. The math concepts alone begin from roughly the fifth grade through the 11th grade. Sounds easy, huh? Well, it’s not. First of all, calculators are not allowed, so you literally have to be familiar with the formula and/or term for every conceivable mathematical function over the course of 7 years of secondary schooling. The good news is a formula is a formula and once you know it, it will answer the same type of question correctly every time.

It is enormously helpful, then, to have some degree of mastery in at least one area already or there really will be a great deal to cover to achieve a superior score.

I am always hopeful that the area of greatest pre-existing student literacy will be vocabulary, since vocabulary is potentially infinite. Furthermore, a pre-existing strong vocabulary also indicates a finer reading ability and a greater familiarity with the rules of syntax. That rules out a bunch of concerns.

The balance of the remaining areas are quite manageable for the average student with sufficient review.

It is true the ASVAB is not an IQ test. It is also true that it is basically designed to determine where your strengths lie to correctly align you with an appropriate military specialty. But it is also true that the higher your percentile, the greater your choices will be.

Whatever you do, don’t believe anyone who tells you a good night’s sleep alone will be sufficient. It will not.

Business

As a retired entrepreneur, who for more than twenty years ran several highly successful businesses, I would like to first describe the nature of enterprise with a small anecdote.

One day, after working for large corporations and small businesses for many years, I found myself standing in front of my last boss’s closed door, ready to knock, annoyed for the hundredth time that it was shut rather than open, thinking to myself, “what is he doing in there?”

Well, it turns out, he wasn’t doing much of anything, except perhaps wanting to feel, or make others feel, how important he was.

Once in business for myself, I found out small businesses consist of relatively few moving parts. Successful business operations requires only three things, albeit, three very important things. By the way, none of these involve a closed door; on the contrary, doors should always be open, both literally and figuratively.

And, what are the three things? First, sales or clients; second, content or what you are selling; and third, process or how you are producing it.

In all cases, it is essential that you have a complete mastery of what you are creating, in order to hire, estimate, negotiate, sell, and form processes that work efficiently and consistently. All other functions that may sound difficult to understand are generally farmed out to accounts, attorneys, and benefit specialists.

Although I am not sympathetic to Marx, employees are in one sense everything. Without an energetic, smart, and loyal staff you may convince clients that you offer what they need, but you will soon fail to deliver it.

On the other hand, clients and employees are literally inseparable. Satisfied clients are impossible without gratified employees, and employees wouldn’t exist whatsoever without satisfied clients.

Than there is the employer’s job, which I usually describe metaphorically as such: sunny days are always nice, but cloudy days, like unpleasant or negative circumstances, should be kept in perspective. They pass. Stay impartial, fair, calm, and respectful, and solve the problem. Blaming, of course, is less than useless. For the most part, your own decisions and actions alone will determine the final outcome.

I am over simplifying, of course. Running a business is hard work. Acuity, patience, discretion, leadership, experience, and common sense are vital. And then there is the quality of wherewithal, such as being available to pick up the phone at Sunday 12:00 pm midnight to answer your vendor’s questions, many of who are working three shifts for the duration of the project to meet your critical deadlines.

More formally speaking, there are several types of business entities and these in the broadest sense are designated as “for profit” and “non-profit” organizations.

For profit corporations have a variety of sub-structures. Perhaps the best known is the “C” corporation, which is either a publicly traded company, owned by share holders or a private corporation that is not publicly traded and has a limited number of share holders.

The ubiquitous sub “S” corporation is privately held, but with different and more advantageous tax obligations. “S” corporations taxable profits are passed through to the individual and are not taxed twice as are “C” corporations who are obligated to pay taxes, once at the corporate level and once individually.

Very similar to the sub “S” is the limited liability or “LLC” corporation. It is no more expense or difficult to form and has the same tax advantages as the “S’ corporation and is therefore difficult to see any significant difference between the two. Importantly, however, all forms of corporations have limited or no personal liability.

There are also partnerships and sole proprietorships but that lack both tax advantages and protection from personal liability. They no longer are formed as frequently as previously, since the IRS’s creation of the sub “S” and “LLCs” corporations.

“Not for Profit” corporations are always designated as charitable organizations and have numerous restrictions. This does not mean that these companies do not make profits, per se. It simply means they are obligated to be engaged in very specific community-obligated charities. The government encourages these business formations with a non-taxable status.

As it as often been noted, small business is the job creating backbone of the country. There are 4.5 to 6 million businesses in this category and only 15,000 publicly traded companies, and many of them very small, indeed.

In fact, 99.7 % of all businesses have fewer than 50 employees and the over whelming majority of those have less than 20.

Drawing

My undergraduate and graduate degrees in Fine Art and my 25 years of experience as an Art Director have taught me many things about art and drawing. As an example, there are numerous forms art can take as seen in the vast number of approaches to collage, assemblage, photography, lithography, silkscreen, painting or sculpture.

Anyone who has been to the Museum of Modern Art, picked up an art history book or simply gone to the closest art gallery knows what I am taking about. Drawings may be realistic, surrealistic, purposefully disproportionate, minimalist, baroque, photo realistic, powerful, subtle, complex, or consisting of little more than a single black line.

I personally enjoy any well-rendered works of art whether abstract of realistic. It’s use of line, volume, color, direction, form, texture, shape, space or form may be convoluted, restricted, monochromatic or without specific meaning… but one thing it must be is intellectually or visually compelling, if not both.

There is no one-way to create beauty, power or meaning; rather there are many ways to create virtuosity.

As a drawing instructor, however, my emphasis is on traditional proportion and composition, which form the basis of all representative art. In fact, until you are able to render real life proportions and understandable composition you cannot pretend it’s distortion or lack of correspondence to real life is yet accomplished artwork.

By way of direction and diligence anyone can learn to draw well, nonetheless. With instruction this can be seen even after a student’s first few weeks. The depiction may have a certain power missing before or a sublimity of beauty never previously reached. Whether it is figure drawing, field trips, or simple cubes and spheres drawing can be magic.

One thing is for sure. You can do it, too. I’ve seen it happen over and over.

Economics

This essay is on macroeconomics, one of the two primary categories available for study in economics. The other is microeconomics, not covered here.

The first reviews the efficacy of large concepts and their interactions, and the latter looks at smaller units of principal and their functions and interaction. Simply put, it’s comparable to the relationship between sentences and paragraphs and words and letters, or relativity and particle physics.

Mercantilism was the first broad economic system occurring from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Leaders of mercantile nations, primarily Britain, intervened extensively in the market, imposing tariffs on foreign goods to restrict import trade and granting subsidies to improve exports.

By 1860, England had removed the last vestiges of the mercantile era. Industrial regulations, monopolies, and tariffs were abolished. Subsequently, England became the dominant economic power in Europe and this seemed to validate non-mercantile principals.

This is in no small part due to Adam Smith’s book “The Wealth of Nations” that described the market system acting as a so-called "invisible hand" which lead people to unintentionally promote society's interests while pursuing their own.

In Smith's view, the ideal economy is a self-regulating market that automatically satisfies the economic needs of the populace. This system is generally referred to as laissez-faire. Smith argued that the collusive relationship between government and industry was harmful to the general population.

Coming at the end of the Classical tradition, John Stuart Mill parted company with the earlier classical economists on the inevitability of the distribution of income produced by the market system. Mill pointed to a distinct difference between the market's two roles: allocation of resources and distribution of income. The market might be efficient in allocating resources but not in distributing income, making it necessary for society to intervene.


Marxism challenged the very foundations of all the variations of Classical theory. Writing during the mid-19th century, Karl Marx saw capitalism as an evolutionary phase in economic development. He believed that capitalism would ultimately destroy itself and be succeeded by a world without private property.

These theories were actually put into effect in 1918 in the Soviet Union, and in their most extreme form became known as Communism or the control by the government of the means of production. This form of central planning was modified under Stalin with some success to allow degrees of private enterprise.

By and large, however, this system of economic control, which denied the importance of private competition, has been universally recognized as non-viable. It came to an abrupt end in the late 1980's.

By the way, it is a misnomer that China is a Communist nation. On the contrary, it encourages the full-blown capitalist principles of private enterprise. It is much closer to a mercantile system, an economic nationalism for the purpose of building a wealthy and powerful state.

Conjointly, another economic theory developed from the severity and length of a worldwide depression, written and developed by John Maynard Keynes with the publication of the General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.

The Classical view assumed that in a recession, wages and prices would decline to restore full employment. Keynes held that the opposite was true. Falling prices and wages, by depressing people's incomes, would prevent a revival of spending. He insisted that direct government intervention was necessary to increase total spending.

But starting in the late 1960s, troubling inflation and lagging productivity prodded economists to look for new solutions.

Supply-side economics, recalling the Classical School's concern with economic growth as a fundamental prerequisite for improving society's material well being, was applied to economic stagnation. It successfully countered a long economic slide and coincided with rapid economic growth.

As a student of history, but not an economist, it is interesting to me that neither of these two major economic theories has proven successful.

Keynes proposition that falling prices and wages, by depressing incomes, would prevent a revival of spending can be contrasted with its exact opposite in classical economics, which assumes in a recession, wages and prices would decline to restore full employment.

In either case, prices fall but so do wages. It's the conundrum of the chicken or the egg: prices fall but we have less money. Or, prices fall and we have greater spending power. Neither it seems to me accurately predict the aggregate of individual behavior.

Elementary (K-6th)

As early childhood educators, we all have our own philosophies and approaches to education. Our approach to teaching is created from a multitude of resources and probably includes knowledge from early childhood theorists, an understanding of child development, and our experiences with children in different learning environments.

As a former volunteer teacher, business owner, art director, and production manager for the development of major educational series, I am very familiar with K-12 pedagogy.

K-5 learning, itself, concentrates and is tested on valid measures of language, literacy, science, math, phonological awareness, and/or cognitive outcomes as per the congressional approval of the ”No Child Left Behind Act”.

Although, it is readily understandable that education is important at all levels and grades, it is especially important in early childhood education, since these basic skills are the building blocks of more complex knowledge later on.

English

I remember sitting on a cruise ship on the Danube just outside Budapest, relaxing onboard and listening to the conversations of others. It took a few minutes to occur to me that I understood what everyone was saying and no one was American!

Of course, it dawned on me rather slowly that I was not a genius, but that they were all speaking English. Japanese to Germans, Hungarians to Russians.

In fact, today, some 1.53 billion people speak English as a primary, auxiliary, or business language with some 250 million acquiring the language in China alone.

The English Language is considered to be one of the most important languages in the world. There are other languages such as French, Spanish, Chinese etc, but they are not important for the same reasons as the English Language. English is a universal language that links the world together which is the most important fact considering the changing times.

It is also the main language when it comes to the Internet. There are various languages and translations available, but the main language has always been English. Since the importance of the Internet has also grown, English has grown with it.

English grammar, on the other hand, is important because it is the means that makes it possible for us to talk about our language. Grammar names the types of words and word groups that make up sentences not only in English, but also in any language.

People associate grammar with errors and correctness. But knowing about grammar also helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear, interesting and precise. Grammar can be part of literature discussions, when our students and we closely read the sentences in poetry and stories.

And knowing about grammar means finding out that all languages and all dialects follow grammatical patterns, albeit, in some cases syntax so radically different from ours as to be daunting, indeed.

Hungarian, for instance, has no pronouns. Gender is derived from the meaning of the sentence, and nouns follow verbs. Try that out!

It can not be emphasized enough, that a mastery of the English language, it’s grammar and syntax, a competent vocabulary and accurate pronunciation are critical for all students and nearly everyone else, as our world grows smaller and smaller.

ESL/ESOL

Any experienced teacher knows that students’ minds move very fast and they become bored very quickly. A great teacher changes the rhythm of a class often to keep learning exciting and fresh.

In ESL… review, new material, speaking practice, role-playing, writing, comprehension and FUN are all essential.

As I have said in other places, you cannot, however, separate speaking correctly in English (except perhaps from Spanish to English) without learning sentence structure or syntax. In most languages the order of words can be very different. The use of pronouns, articles, gender, and conjunctions are often completely dissimilar.

And, phonics is especially helpful in learning the sounds of the alphabet and their sound combinations. This makes it much easier to recognize word and letter sounds when pronouncing or listening to sounds that do not exist in your language.

European History

Western Civilization was first established from Egypt and Asia by way of the islands of the Aegean Sea. This migration eventually flowered into the splendors of Greek and Roman culture.

The accomplishments of the Greeks are almost unparalleled in the history of civilization. They created the first democracy, the first written histories, and the first development of accomplished literature, philosophy, theater, poetry, and medicine.

Greek hegemony was overlapped by the emergence of Rome as early as the 6th century BC. Rome conquered most of the known world and created a civilization that lasted a thousand years. No culture is so identified with constructing and building things than the Romans. Innovations such as aqueducts, roads, baths, theatres, temples, arches, cities, baths, palaces and amphitheatres flourished.

By 476 AD, Western Rome had fallen and brought with it a broad decline in culture and was followed by a long period of great upheaval, constant war, horrendous plague, stagnant cultural growth, the destruction of classical knowledge and the advent of feudal society.

But during the Renaissance suppressed and lost documents came to light and were widely circulated, reintroducing new notions of creativity, literature, and learning marking the transition from medieval to modern times.

The Enlightenment brought with it the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The rise of science progressively undermined not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but with it the entire set of presuppositions that had served to constrain and guide philosophical inquiry. Economic, philosophical, scientific, political, and aesthetic theory exploded.

The Age of Reason spread rapidly across Europe. In the late 17th century, scientists like Isaac Newton and writers like John Locke were challenging the old order. Newton's laws of gravity and motion described the world in terms of natural laws beyond any spiritual force and the entire opening of the Declaration of Independence is Thomas Jefferson's application of John Locke's ideas.

Following in the footsteps of the American Revolution, historians agree unanimously that the French Revolution was a watershed event that changed Europe irrevocably. In a time of a highly secularized Enlightenment, the idea of a king who had absolute power due to divine right no longer held much water.

By the late 19th century Africa and parts of Asia were points of contention amongst the European countries. This was especially true because of the raw materials these areas could provide. The increasing competition and desire for greater empires led to an increase in confrontation that helped push the world into world war, where some twenty million people, most of them civilians, died. Far to the East, revolution in Russia brought about additional ominous signs.

No sooner had the war ended, than the seeds of the next major conflict were immediately sown. In Germany by November 1923 hyperinflation led to a loaf of bread costing 200,000,000,000 marks. A few years later, the Great Depression devastated the entire modern world and was followed in a decade by convoluted events that resulted in a second world war, infinity worst than the first.

At least 60 million people died; horrible cruelties were committed on an unheard of scale; two bombs of immense power were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing upwards of 60,000 in a single burst of energy, while subsequent bankruptcy and physical destruction of all those involved ensued. Only the United States was unscathed, and, of course, the banks.

Russia subsequently occupied all of central Europe, ruthlessly imposing a completely unworkable economic system on a dozen nations. Another kind of war called the Cold War followed involving thousands of nuclear weapons pointed one at the other by the two remaining super powers. Enough, it has been, said to destroy the whole world a thousand times over.

Actually, things are not much different today. Nuclear weapons proliferate across the globe. Nation states vie for prestige, hegemony, scare resources, economic superiority, cultural dominance, and somehow always manage to find reasons to create additional pointless wars.

Ah, but Europe has finally developed a degree of subtly, largely made possible by its relegation to secondary economic, military and cultural importance. The ancient rivalries between Great Britain, Germany and France are masked behind a thin veil of social, monetary and cultural unity called the European Union.

Not that they are likely to begin another world war. The instantaneous financial globalization of the world has changed all forms of traditional imperialism. Economic and financial interdependence has transformed all that, except for the feudal fringe.

But boys will be boys and one never knows. History reveals we are at least as irrational as we are rational.

Finance

When I teach finance, I emphasize both the core academic subjects and the practical realities of small and corporate business. Academic performance is never a simple matter of memorization, but a preamble to success in life.

My knowledge covers financial accounting and the principles underlying financial accounting, supply and demand, the use of accounting information for decision making, advanced topics involving strategic financial decisions, including capital structure and cost of capital, valuation, and corporate control.

I have twenty years of entrepreneurial experience creating several multi-million dollar businesses with Fortune 500 accounts and am extremely familiar with the structures and concerns of small and large corporate concerns. My own accounts have included National Geographic Learning, Phillip Morris, Bayer Aspirin, Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt Educational Division, MacMillan McGraw-Hill Educational Publishing, and Scholastic Education Marketing Division.

In my 20 years of business experience, I have found there are only several genuine keys to business success beginning with effective, informed management. At any level of management those who keep their doors “open” and listen, who take nothing for granted, and are hands on, have a “leg up” on everyone else.

I ask such questions as what is the company’s underlying philosophy, what services or products they produce, how much demand there is for it, how competitive are their prices, and how well-prepared is management in relation to their competition, and how cost effective and well made are products or services created, how consistently profitable are margins, and last, but the most important of all, how does corporate culture effect employee morale and performance.

GED

The GED is an very important test to pass and I am qualified in a large number of subjects, either directly related or indirectly related to the five basic subjects that the test covers, including the ACT English, ASVAB, General English, Government and Politics, the GED itself, Economics, Business, Reading, Vocabulary, and Literature.

I have many lesson plans worked out for several GED subjects, including relevant word lists for basic high school and college level vocabulary and all major high school mathematics terms, concepts and formulas. And personally, science, writing, vocabulary, reading comprehension and politics (social studies) are among my favorite subjects!

Grammar

Along with teaching reading, phonics, writing, syntax, and vocabulary, the esoteric subject of grammar is bound to appear at some point. Fortunately, for most of us, we are either speaking or using spell check.

I was one of those kids who loved to diagram! Now let's see. Anyone one can find the noun and the verb in a sentence, or almost anyone, but what about the direct object? And, what do we call those sentences that begin with prepositions and are set off by commas? Or, are they? And, how in the world do if I know when a conjunction is set off by a comma? Indeed, what is a conjunction? And what the heck is an adverb? Couldn't we keep this relatively simple? I thought they modified verbs, but adjectives?

Oh, and compound, subordinate, and complex sentences? Doesn't a comma go somewhere? And what's the different anyway? Can each be modified by prepositional phrase? Can phrases be modified by phrases?

And, those linking verbs with compliments. Was that a vertical line or a slanted line connecting it diagrammatically to a subject compliment. Or, maybe that was a direct object, after all?

There are nine parts of speech, but my favorite complication is that a word can sound alike but have more than one meaning: accept, except, adverse, averse, advice, advise, affect, effect, ail, ale, air, err, heir, aisle, I’ll, isle, all, awl, allot, a lot, allowed, aloud, all ready, already.

Don't even get me started on the difference in word meanings when they are used as different parts of speech!

And, last but not least my favorite challenge of all, comma usage! Ever read a 19th, or heaven forbid, a 18th century English novel. There are more commas than words, or I imagining things? In any event, saying that a comma's correct usage can be a challenge is a virtual under statement.

Nevertheless, don't we all love puzzles?

Literature

“Blind is the bookless man” goes an Icelandic proverb.

Literature is something that allows us to linger in the language of beauty, in harmony and incongruity, tragedy and hope, cynicism and belief, forgiveness and rage; It both clarifies and reflects. Good syntax alone is a lingering pleasure.

When I was a young teen I was already an avid reader, having found that I could not put down Edgar Allen Poe’s “Decent into a Maelstrom,” nor, Albert Camus “Metamorphosis.” This fortunate turn of events created a lifelong love of reading, curiosity, and imaginative thought.

Although debated by some, the quest for a definition of literature is not difficult for me. Relativistic notions of human triumphant and travail haven’t a place in real life; they are simple affectations posturing safely behind closed doors, pretending insight into the nature of things.

Neither in art, literature, music, or real life are fundamental concepts relative. Superficially, some things may be subjective; but, betrayal really is betrayal; death really is death; triumph really is triumph. Otherwise, profundity would be nonsense and literature a contradiction. As one author commented, “A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.”

Take for example the following sentence: “For a moment she stared at the darkness as though it were the surface of a pond into which someone she loved had disappeared, head to heels.” Grace, deftness, simmering beauty or artless fodder?

It is true that what may be considered ordinary and not worthy of comment in one time period may be considered literary genius in another. Initial reviews of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights in 1847 were not very flattering, but today Wuthering Heights is considered one of the greatest literary achievements of all time.

Literature then, is a form of demarcation, however fuzzy, based on the premise that all texts are not created equal. Some have or are given more value than others because there is recurring agreement that for a work to be called literature, it must display excellence in form, style and content, or as another observer noted, “Literature transforms and intensifies ordinary language, and deviates systematically from everyday speech”.

As C.S. Lewis said, "Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it.

Painting

To begin with I hold degrees in Fine Art and Painting at both the BA and Masters level. As I have learned to increase my ability to paint, through both undergraduate school and graduate school, I also developed skills in highly related areas that virtually all major artist for the last 500 years have learned to master. Each has contributed for me in some additional area of understanding in creating expressive paintings. In my free time, for the last 30 years, I have painted. Today, I specialize in creating glimmering monochromatic cobalt blue Victorian houses in oil and acrylic on 5’ X 4” canvas, which many feel they could almost walk into, or, at the very least live in. I have been chosen to show in many exhibitions and won first place in several with my work. Both my wife and I currently tutor private art lessons and my specialty is painting and color theory. I also have a certified guest teacher license in Colorado and have volunteered at several schools for the entire school year to replace a missing art instructor.

Philosophy

Most of Western philosophy is a historical development of repeated themes beginning with Pre-Socratic thought right up through yesterday. I’m still working on what I think about today.

As complicated and difficult as some extended philosophical thought can be, it all can be broken down into two epistemological categories, or as some say, how do we come to know what we know? These two categories are commonly known as empiricism and idealism, with rationalism as a word used interchangeability with Idealism.

We can proceed right up through Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Berkeley, Hegel, Nietzsche, Sartre and Wittgenstein, all of whom have been enormously concerned with
this question, although admittedly, Nietzsche was a bit iconoclastic.

In the end, virtually all speculative thought boils down to the ontological question, what is reality in all its manifestations, and how do we, or can we, know it? Mind, matter, meaning, space, time, motion, thought, existence, dualism, self, perception, determinism, freedom, and jelly beans are fair game.

Phonics

Did you know that It has been estimated that one out of seven adults is considered to be functionally illiterate in the United States. Perhaps there is something fundamental missing for many in learning to read.

I have been fascinated by, reviewed, and taught reading techniques over the course of many years and can find no better way to do this than through phonics instruction.

Many parents of beginning readers have heard about it, but have questions regarding its significance. Simply put... phonics is the system of relationships between letters and sounds in a language. When your child learns that the letter B has the sound of /b/ and then learns that “tion” sounds like /shun/, they are learning phonics.

This type of learning is important because it will teach students to read and spell even if they have been struggling with it. They have, after all, been listening to speech every day, but they have not been systematically taught to associate the sound of those words they hear in conversation with the individual components that make up these words.

Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of letters and letter combinations will help your child decode words as he reads. Knowing phonics will also help your child know which letters to use as he writes words.

Children learn the sounds of the consonant letters and the vowels a, e, i, o, and u. Later, all the sounds of letters, letter combinations, and word parts such as “ing” and “ed” are learned. Students practice reading and spelling words containing those letters and patterns.

In my personal experience, I can think of no better way to learn to master reading than through systematic phonics instruction.

Psychology

I carried a double major in undergraduate school and minored in psychology, not because I needed the credits, but because it was so positively interesting. I have not yet tutored the subject, but I am very well read and up-to date on modern theories of schizophrenia, bio-polar disorder, autism, dyslexia, multiple personality disorders, and the list goes on. In fact I am working with a autistic child now. Talk about a hand full. The fact that the same symptoms have been experienced by so many different people should prove that are real. Any mental disorder, by definition, seriously affects the lives of the people who suffer from it, usually for the worse, or it would not be considered a disorder. And they are certainly not easy to get over. Most mental disorders are caused at least in part by a difference in the brain or an imbalance of chemicals. And, yes, if we could overcome mental illnesses just by wanting to, the world would be full of much happier and more productive people.

Reading

Most of us know if we stop and think about it that reading is not a straightforward process of your eyes lifting words off a page.

For beginning readers, it is necessary for them to have reached a point when they are able to carry out certain tasks in a virtually automatic manner. This means a good phonetic recognition of words and their pronunciation combined with a correspondingly sufficient vocabulary. Words, like numbers, are inherently abstract and require a ready association with the reader’s personal experience in order to become relevant. Once relevance, vocabulary, and word recognition are established, rapid progress can be made toward the student’s grasp of the author’s intended context, point of view, purpose, setting or perspective.

Perhaps the most important single thing between a good and poor reader is that good readers know when they do not comprehend. As a result, in working with learning readers their understanding must be monitored to help bring forward many possible levels of understanding. In the end, understanding is the ability to summarize, which in turn is the essence of comprehension, if not intelligence itself.

With mastery chores frequently turn to enjoyment. Jack and Jill are replaced with higher and subtler levels of interest until the reader finds his or her self comfortably immersed in choosing between continuing with an essay on Heisenberg’s Principal of Uncertainly or Chapter Two of Jane Eyre.

Religion

Ah, Religion. Perhaps there is no more contentions subject open to conversation.

My favorite memory was sitting in a Buddhist monastery in my Army fatigues reading through some English translations of DT Suzuki’s works when a young monk ask me if I would like to be introduced to the head monk. Really, they were rather suspicious of my motives for being there, since it was war time in Vietnam, and we all found ourselves wedged between overt hostility, death, pillage, starvation, and wholesale humiliation, and, of course, in their practical and admittedly emphatic way, the monks had been protesting the war by pouring gasoline over themselves by setting themselves on fire in the middle of Saigon.

Well, it was a short meeting accompanied by plastered on smiles. One of the monks asked me what I wanted and I replied I was very interested in Zen and had gone into downtown from my duty station (taking my life in my hands) to further my education on the subject. Hmmm, he said, and asked if I had any questions? Well, yes, I replied sincerely. I was wondering what the exact connotation of Karma was? At which point, both monks fell on the floor laughing hilariously. In retrospect, I can see the many ironies in this question.

Since then, I have spent many years studying the rise of Christianity from both a biblical and historical context. Of course, the differences and contradictions are striking. But I have also studied the differences between Morons and others, particularly traditional biblical teaching, as well as Hinduism, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Atheism, Islam (it’s violent socio-political beginnings), all the pre-Socratic thought right through Aristotle, the First Council of Nicaea, the Scholastics and finally the prescient Luther.

And, let’s not forget the rather later influential impact of Descartes, Smith, Hume, Kant, Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Sartre, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heisenberg. There isn't a one who didn’t make significant contributions to ethics, ontology, epistemology, and metaphysics.

In the end, it is a fascinating subject beginning in the earnestness perception of man’s first sense of personal self-awareness and the conscious knowledge of externality and his own eventual demise, right on into todays rather current contradictory observation that two particles can be in two different places at the same time, but you can not!

SAT Reading

My scores for the English portion of the SAT were well above average approaching 750. I attribute this to a lifelong love of reading 19th and 20th century literature. I'm so picky now in what I read, I examine the grammar, nearly as much as the content.

I was also a bit of a geek in school, who enjoyed diagramming, pronunciation, syntax, and parts of speech, although, I admit I couldn't stand Latin. My sister was the Latin geek!

I am currently teaching phonics, sentence inference, vocabulary, comma usage, test taking skills (there are several important ones for reading). Please contact me and we'll share information and antidotes and see if we are a fit.

Best regards,
Steve

Study Skills

Overview
Many students think that being a good student means just showing up for classes, taking a few notes, reading the textbooks, and studying right before the tests. However, learning, like many other activities, involves a complex set of skills that require practice, diligence and a desire to excel. All are essential. Further, comprehension, perception, organization, and listening are indispensable skills for success.

Comprehension
Perhaps the most important single thing between a good and poor reader is that good readers know when they do not comprehend. As a result, in working with learning readers their understanding must be monitored to help bring forward the many possible levels of understanding. In the end, understanding is the ability to summarize, which in turn is the essence of comprehension, if not intelligence itself.

Perception
Memorizing is inevitable and clearly has a purpose, but without understanding much is lost. When students understand the material that they are studying rather than just memorizing it, they are more likely not only to remember the material, but also apply it more broadly and hence more successfully.

Organization
It is said that the top 20% of what anyone needs to undertake contains 80% of the value of what we need to accomplish. The top 20% of tasks are generally those things we want to do last, if at all. Nothing is more important than tackling the most important things first and finishing them.

Listening
This is essential. Listening requires focus and attention. It is a skill that some people need to work at harder than others. Many people are poor listeners, even in everyday life. They tend to listen and think about something else at the same time.
Practice active listening with your student. Active listening is designed to overcome poor listening practices by requiring a student to listen to and then restate what they have heard. The purpose is to confirm that the listener accurately understands the message sent.

Vocabulary

When your children get in trouble with other children, and the other children call your children little twerps and your children call them nefarious miscreants, well, the battle is over.

Everyone from beginning learners in English to the most skilled professionals knows the frustration of not having the right word immediately available in one’s vocabulary.

Sometimes it's a matter of not being able to recall the right word; sometimes we never knew it. It is also frustrating to read a book or homework assignment and run across words whose meanings elude us.

Language, after all, is knowledge. Good learners always stop and determine the meaning of any word they don’t recognize. Building a vocabulary that is adequate to the needs of one's reading and self-expression has to be a personal goal for every student.

Beginning learners starting from scratch and ESL students may commence by learning a combination of basic phonetic vocabulary and simple high frequency words (often the most difficult for ESL students because of a frequently different syntaxes in their native language).

Later on as each student’s word complexity grows, an academic word list can help delineate words that occur frequently in a range of academic subjects. These may include the Arts (history, psychology, sociology, philosophy), Commerce (economics, marketing, management), Law and the Sciences (biology, computer science, mathematics).

Of course, plain old reading itself is the best way to increase one’s vocabulary.

Always look to express yourself with different words with the same meaning. It is vital to absorb as many synonyms and antonyms as possible. This increases both the effectiveness of speaking as well as your writing.

The English language crossed the million-word threshold several years ago, but the average high school student or adult vocabulary is approximately 60,000 words, yet an astounding one out of seven Americans is functionally illiterate. The consequences for them are manifold and entirely negative.

English and its corresponding vocabulary has become a universal means of communication; never before have so many people been able to communicate so easily with so many others. The English language is now being studied by hundreds of millions around the world. Today, some 1.53 billion people speak English as a primary, auxiliary, or business language with some 250 million acquiring the language in China alone.

In the end, the greater one’s vocabulary, the more readily one will be capable of solving complex problems. There is a demonstrable high occurrence of success in any facet of individual endeavor with a large and meaningful lexicon.

World History

History is an act of both investigation, and often imagination, that seeks to explain how people have changed over time. Historians use many forms of evidence to examine, interpret, revisit, and reinterpret the past. These include not just written documents, but also oral communication and objects such as buildings, artifacts, photographs, and paintings.

But who decides what people, dates, and events are important? As Winston Churchill famously observed, “History is written by the victors,” and not infrequently the objective facts of history are limited by their interpretation, and virtually every great event has more than one.

Generally speaking, though, history does explain a great deal about the past and present. Through the study of history we can investigate and interpret why society developed as it has and determine what influences have affected the past and present and may shape the future. It helps one to understand the immense complexity of our world and provides insights to help cope with the problems and possibilities of the present and future.

It also provides a sense of identity to understand the collective past that has have made us what we are today. In one sense history is the only thing that is real. The way in which people identify and interact with one another is by and large a consequence of history, which shapes and conditions individuals and societies whether they fully understand it or not.

History is also a bridge to other disciplines. In order to understand the other humanities and the sciences one needs an historical overview. Writers, artists, scientists, politicians and everyday people all are conditioned by the historical milieu in which they lived.

And there are many levels of historical fascination. Some are absorbed by the idea of buried treasure, ancient Egyptian secrets, lost cities, Stonehenge or other unexplained phenomena throughout our world’s history. We can study pre-history before the development of writing; the development of agriculture’s effect on the rise of civilizations; the advent of writing and the concomitant advancement of language and syntax; the rise and fall of the Roman Empire; the Renaissance; the discovery of the New World; the French Revolution; the spread of Islam and the rise of nation states.

History, in short, is a vast panoply of events creating a spellbinding story when told with depth, passion and humor.

Writing

Oddly, the single most important thing about a good writer is that they should be a profligate and discriminating reader, who consciously notices and enjoys the consistent subtleties and art of character formation, effective syntax, powerful vocabulary, and the clever use of metaphor and humor.

But I proceed myself. Let me present my credentials to teach this essential subject. Even while working full time as a business owner in educational publishing, I had the opportunity to teach writing as an independent tutor for many years, working closely with struggling students. Little did I realize when minoring in English literature years before in graduate school that one day I would be teaching some aspect of what I had learned.

Perhaps most importantly, I eventually found myself relying on my writing skills as a businessman to present cogent written arguments to obtain multi-million dollar business contracts. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Even though I digress, let me say that I well understand all the essential aspects of good writing, whether you are being required to write a research essay, expository essay, book report or summary, literary reflection essay, critical analysis essay, straight technical essay or a work or small work of original literature.

I include in my comprehension all syntactical relationships, vocabulary development, appropriate word selection, the development of effective topic sentences, and the use of memorable opening and closing statements.

Let me conclude by saying that effectual writing is quite similar to effective speech. It's something you are going to be relying on for the rest of your life.

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